Ugly Photos of my Swollen Face – What am I Reacting to?

Posted by on Sep 28, 2012

These are probably the ugliest photos that you’ll ever see of me but I don’t really care right now.  For the past few months, my face has been swelling up mysteriously.  Namely, my eyes and lips have swelled up at alarming rates without warning.

At first, I thought they were bug bites but there weren’t actual evidence of bites.  What’s more, the reactions occurred both in Vancouver and Austin, which limited the environmental causes.  (Not bed bugs, 1st thing I checked.)

Allergies swollen lips

Collagen lip injections gone horribly wrong?

I went to an allergy specialist and he said that it could be attributed to a number of triggers, including insects, chemicals, and most likely food.  He was surprised that my eyes and lips were swelling up independently.

Allergies swollen eye

Got punched in the eye

I haven’t found a link between anything I ate on the days that the swelling has occurred.  I certainly haven’t eaten anything new but he asked me to keep a food journal.  He also prescribed me to pick up epi-pens, just in case.

Now I have to decide whether or not to shell out for expensive tests that may or may not tell me what I’m precisely reacting to.  If it’s a food allergy, chances are, I won’t be able to pass up on whatever it is anyways.  Of course, the risk of not taking the test is I may react worse and it could be life threatening.

I just wanted to share and to see whether anyone else has encountered this.  I’ve never had serious reactions to anything before and figured that I was home free.  Any similar experiences would be appreciated o_O

 UPDATE:  An allergist conducted extensive testings on me and concluded that I’m not allergic to anything that they could test me for, ranging from foods, insects, to environmental triggers.  My eyes still swell every other week or so but my lips have stopped swelling.  I do wish that my allergist could have helped me narrow it down, but on the other hand, it’s nice to know that I’m not allergic to anything that I love.  The search goes on…

 

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=770940191 Colleen McKay

    get the scratch test done. I reacted to tiger prawns from Morton’s once and the allergist here in Vancouver told me that reactions like this can go from zero to REALLY BAD (like epi-pen, death bad) from one reaction to the next.

  • Lynn D.

    Yes I have heard that each reaction is worse than the last one. Do you take Benadryl for the reaction? My Dr. told me I should always carry Benadryl with me because I have allergies to a lot of medications and they usually hit after I have been on the meds for 2 weeks. I would have the tests done if you can. Hope you feel better soon and figure out what’s going on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/LiesaBillings Liesa Macleod-Billings

    Do the test Melody, you need to know. You only life once and your health is more important than anything else.

  • Lannae

    Oh you do look bad. I hope you get better soon, and figure out the triggers. Similar things happened to me, home and on biz travel in the past couple of months. I think excessive MSG is one of my triggers. I got the lips and nose swelling when I ate at cheap Chinese, and chain restaurants (both with a lot of MSG). It could be chemicals in cheap restaurant foods created with flavor enhancers for food distributors. What about wheat gluten or milk casein? And about a month ago, it was the pollen from the cut flowers in my house that made my eyes look like yours, and my nose got swollen too, but I did not have sinus issues. Do you have cut flowers in your house? Pets?

  • Julia

    I had the same allergic reaction when I both started using a new face cream and new washing conditioner. So after a few weeks of trying figure out which one was the cause I stopped using both of them and the reaction was gone after day or two.
    But my doctor tld me that the smaller lips is not a good sign – it can provoque also a throw swell – and that can be very dangerous.
    So if you can’t find out the cause of the reaction – do the tests!

  • Aimbouch

    I had swollen puffy eyes when I bought what I thought was the same mascara as always but unfortunately I didn’t know they had changed the ingredients. Once I stopped using the mascara the swelling went down. Have you changed anything in your cosmetics cupboard?

  • http://www.facebook.com/nadia.maclean Nadia MacLean

    my daughter has this exact reaction to peanuts. get your testing done, you won’t regret it :=) At least yopu’ll know what you’re getting into if it’s food related, major or minor reactions.

  • Sabine K

    Hi Melody, I had exactly the same swollen eyes, when I still lived in Vancouver. It started after I ate at a cheap and awful sushi place. First I went to a doctor, all she gave me was a cortisone creme, after probably a two minute inspection. My husband then took me to a Chinese doctor, and after 2 weeks of awful medicine it was gone. The allergy test will just bring out anything right now, I never found it helpful. If I listened to all the allergy tests I have taken I couldn’t eat anything. If you want I can send you a message with the doctor’s address. Hope you get well soon.

  • TheBantuGirl

    I’ve suffered from food allergies. I saw a naturopathic doctor because I don’t like needles. His methods were non-invasive and he suggested the elimination diet. I hope you are able to figure it out.

  • HeatherHAL

    I have been dealing with sudden food allergies that started last year. Turns out I’m not technically allergic to food but the pollen. The food is reacting due to its similarity to the pollen giving me an oral reaction. Scary stuff. Carry Claritan, it won’t make you as sleepy as Benadryl and I can take 2-3 when I get a reaction. You need the allergy tests and know each reaction that follows can get worse. Can you think of a food that is giving you a reaction? Mine was a cupcake and quiche and fruit salad so the eggs and fruit turned out to be the problem. Later I learned all tubers, some nuts and raw tomatoes and cucumbers are on the list. It’s so important when you have lip / facial swelling to be careful. If you feel the swelling and the antihistamine doesn’t help and it’s in your throat use the Epi pen and call 911

  • dee

    Hey Mel, I haven’t had reactions to that extent. As you know, I’m allergic to seafood and some nuts. Usually my food allergies only affect my throat and lips. When I was younger my eyes would swell up when playing with pets, and then rubbing my eyes. The past two years though, my skin has gotten really bad from a constant itch and I’d just keep scratching. Dermatologists knew nothing, and just said it was my eczema. It pissed me off, because they didn’t even want to find out what triggered it. My aunt who is a doctor in Vegas told me to do an extensive allergy test, as well as find out what my deficiencies are. I ended up getting about $2000 in tests to find out what I’m allergic to – both anaphylactic and delayed, and what pills I need to take. I found out I was allergic to even rice, gluten, corn, and many more that I typically eat. My aunt recommended I take those things out of my diet for 3 months, and then slowly bring back the things that I had a delayed response of +1. I actually only lasted 1.5 months before cheating, and I’ve been cheating a lot, but my skin is 10 times better than what it was when I started. It is a lot of money to drop, and if you know any doctors that deal with those companies, maybe they will be willing to do it for you at their cost, which is about 50% of the price. My aunt wants me to go back to Vegas after the 3 months to redo the tests.

    It did help, but it is also really expensive. I can email you my test results if you want to know what results would typically look like, how detailed they are, and what companies did them for me. Email me and let me know if you are interested or want to talk about it a bit more.

  • Meghan

    Long shot, but have you by any chance take Aspirin (or an acetylsalictlic acid drug) in conjunction with an NSAID (Ibuprofen, Naproxen, Aleve, Celebrex) – I’ve seen reactions like this with facial and especially lip swelling – it’s a fairly uncommon reaction but it does happen …
    Otherwise, I have to agree with everyone else – it may be a food allergy :( Try keeping a food diary and see if you have this reaction again.
    Has it happened before? If so, try to compare what you’ve eaten to attempt to single out the possible trigger. I fully understand how much elimination diets suck, so if you don’t think you can cut out specific things, try keeping a detailed record of what you DO eat….it’s not common to develop a food allergy later in life (i.e. past childhood) but it can happen.
    Good luck!

  • Meghan

    Edit for typing too fast: *acetylsalicylic* acid

  • Meghan

    and…. sorry to be annoying… I was reading the comments below – are your eyes or lips itchy? Usually itchy eyes is a reaction to animal dander (especially cats but also many breeds of dogs, though to a lesser extent), but your eyes do not look like a typical pet allergy; they tend to be more red lids and bloodshot, itchy eyes- not much swelling though. Your eye doesn’t look like you’ve been scratching it and it’s quite swollen, so I wouldn’t peg it as a pet allergy.

  • Meghan

    Oh and I second HeatherHal…. first, try an OTC antihistamine…. see if that helps at all – I would imagine your GP suggested this, but just in case. Pay close attention to the swelling – how it feels, if it gets better or worse. An allergic reaction can be minor (simply just the swelling -while unpleasant, not a long-term problem) but it can also be an implication of more serious allergins that you may have developed. Keep us posted and take care of yourself!!!

  • Dan

    I agree with Colleen — don’t screw around with allergies like that if you don’t want to assume room temperature. Get checked, and grab an epi pen to be safe.

  • Kim

    I began to experience very similar swelling two years ago. My lips and eyes don’t generally swell separately, usually my eyes swell first, and then my lips if it is a bad reaction. It happened often when I ate seafood but not always. I got tested for various shellfish allergies and came up with nothing. Finally, I figured out it was from anchovies because I had a reaction after being totally vegetarian for a week except for a tomato sauce which I seasoned with Worcestershire sauce. It took me a year to figure it out because anchovies or Worcestershire sauce can be in anything from pizza to BBQ sauce. Good luck. I hope you figure out what is causing the reaction.

  • La

    Look into an avocado allergy. Are u a bit sensitive to wearing latex gloves? My eyes looked just like yours.

  • Belinda

    It could be mango! I certainly have a massive reaction when I even come into contact with mangoes, let alone eating them. Research it, test yourself.

  • Angela Roberts

    Please spend the money for the tests. You are this close to a life threatening reaction. Your throat could swell and you will gasp for air. I once had a bad reaction to an iodine (contrast) during a medical test. Very life threatening. Now I need to keep aware that I may develop a reaction to shell fish. Happened to my mother in her 60′s. Food allergies often have just an x amount tolerance and then wham you react. It builds. This could be shell fish. But, please don’t dismiss. It’s not just your eyes and lips that swell but throat, and other body parts that truly can be serious matter.

  • http://twitter.com/canvasandslate Canvas & Slate

    I had the exact same swelling, and it started out much like yours. I saw an allergist, endocrinologist and dermatologist. All of my tests were inconclusive. I’m not sure about you and the cause of your swelling, but after years of dealing with it, I finally figured out that it was stress. The crazy thing is that I didn’t even really realize that I was stressed out! Definitely make sure you carry your epi pen, and for five and half years, I never left home without zyrtec in my purse of pocket. Finally, this summer, the swelling and hives (the hives developed later) slowed down to about once every two weeks. Now, I’ve been hive and swelling free for about two or three months! Hopefully, it is just an food allergy, because then it will be easier to control. Wishing you the best!

  • Poppy

    Perhaps it’s histamine allergy. I get similar lip swelling with mustards, aioli, curries, soy sauce, fermented and pickled foods. Always carry benedryl and get an epi pen. Best wishes.

  • Luanne

    I had the same thing happen to me to find out that it was the fabric softener
    so i changed how I washed my closes. I now use no fabric softener and
    i was my closes in no fragrance and no dye detergent

  • some_dude

    I had the same thing happen today. I was running in the mountains. First i felt as if my ears were clogged up like they sometimes feel when a plane takes off. Then my lips felt numb, then it was my entire face. When I was done with the run, I found out that my face has ballooned. I don’t remember anything biting me. I had panda express earlier, but I eat there all the time…wierd

  • Nursecurse

    That’s angioedema. Not a food allergy. Google it.

  • Nicki

    I have same problem… my left eye is swollen, and my lips are like of duck’s lips! I know i have allergy, but don’t from which thing i have it! :-/

  • Dan

    Allergies are so annoying, I ate fish fingers today, face swelled up ! Ears and on my back a bit! If you have asthma also and it’s not in check and have heavy breathing this can greatly effect the severity of your reaction. I saw a specialist in London he told me young adults who die from reactions it is usually down to their asthma not being in check. As it makes the reaction so much worse. And older adults it usually down to a bee or wasp stings. This is something I can vouch as I almost died because of a reaction while my asthma was very poor after getting over flue. And I ate a vey dodgy kebab.

  • Darnelle

    Amazing! — I am having the same things as you. It started July 2012.. doctors cant tell me what is exactly causing it. It doesn’t hurt… it just swells. eyes, lips, forehead, inside my head,

  • Jon

    This is angioedema and is most commonly caused by an allergy to certain foods (or the chemicals therein). Are you taking any medication at all? Any changes, eg. new perfume, lippy, peanut butter, boyfriend? I think it’s a good idea to keep a log and I’m not surprised that you have not found a link. I concur that much expense may lead to no answer and would tentatively suggest that you continue to monitor, having covered the unlikely, worst scenario with Epinephrine. I would also take comfort from the proliferation of sufferers (my step-father included) that tolerate these recurring symptoms. I jovially wonder if you are displaying withdrawal symptoms from the ‘Cote de cochon rotie aux chataines et pommes grenailles’. All the best, Jon.

  • Gourmande

    For me it was a lipstick that I loved and used without incident for years. There could be transference from the mouth to the eyes. Good luck!

  • avid77

    This happens to my face when I use coconut oil on my skin. I developed all kids of weird allergies that I never had before after having a baby. I got allergy testing done and it told me nothing. The allergist said just to listen to my body and stop using coconut oil. Now I am thinking it’s all related to candida.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jillian.dawn.stanley Jill Stanley

    My boyfriend has been dealing with facial swelling various times over the past year and has had several bouts with it having to take a lot of Benadryl to bring down the swelling and then being in a fog from all the med. He’s been told by allergists who have given him the tests to watch food high in histamines such as advil , tomatoes, chocolate etc. Very frustrating as a swelling incident sets him back for days! Good luck in your search for answers!

  • Amy

    I had the same type swelling along with the hives as a child and now 15 years later they are back!! Same results from the doctors, inconclusive and then contributed to stress. I have no idea how to manage my stress because I don’t really feel stressed. So frustrating. Best of luck!!

  • Mojostar

    This is exactly what’s been happening to me! It’s occurred 3 times in the past 12 months. The last time it happened, both of my eyes swelled and I could barely see! OTCs didn’t work so I went to see my Dr. I had just had a series of tests for allergys and they couldn’t figure out anything that could be causing it. They gave me a series of steroid pills to take over the course of a week, and gave me an extra pack for the future :-/

  • http://www.gourmetfury.com/ Melody Fury

    It’s so frustrating. I understand. My eye is swollen this morning again. I hope yours get better.

  • GoogleIt

    Angioedema is just a sudden swelling under the skin and can be caused by a food allergen. Google it.

  • http://www.gourmetfury.com/ Melody Fury

    I had extensive testing done by an allergist for thousands of dollars and he found absolutely nothing.  What should I Google next  Captain Obvious?
    ——– Original message ——–

  • shannon

    Do you swell when eating shellfish or chicken?

  • http://www.gourmetfury.com/ Melody Fury

    Nope…

  • Kiplin

    I used to live in Phoenix, AZ and then moved across the country for a couple of years and then went back to Arizona for 2 weeks to visit family for the holidays. I had become super sensitive to some type of fungus that lives in the dust and it caused one of my eyelids to swell up. I was lucky that it got on my skin and didn’t set up a colony in my lungs or get into my eyes itself. Just a thought…

  • http://www.gourmetfury.com/ Melody Fury

    Thanks, friend. I hope that’s the only thing that you’re reacting to because that’s relatively avoidable :) all the best!!
    Sent from my iPad

  • Kiplin

    Have you gone anywhere lately and could have brought something back with you in your clothes? I know that the environment isn’t as extreme in most places as the difference between the Midwestern US and Southwest US, (it’s like a different planet!) but I’ve heard that the differences in even common fungus and bacteria in the air can be dramatically different even over short distances like how the natural yeasts in the air in California are totally different on the north and south sides of the state, which is why you can’t make real San Francisco Sourdough Bread outside of San Francisco because it’s the yeast species in that bay area that are so different from everywhere else.

    Could you have gone to a different town and picked up something you brought back with you or could there have been some type of environmental difference like going to the industrial part of town and gotten some chemical on your clothes that you brought home?

    I saw a documentary that took a harmless fluorescent chemical and put it on common objects then followed the owner of the home with a blacklight and showed how easy it is to spread pollutants etc. over every surface in your home.

    OH! Neighbor with a new cat or dog?

    Sorry for seeming fixated on this but I know how afraid I was when my eyelid reacted and can’t imagine not knowing what is happening. I truly hope you figure out what’s going on and it’s something as easy to take care of as deep cleaning the fabric in your house or a persocription for an alergic reation.

  • Steven

    Garlic? Do you eat raw garlic cloves?

  • Farxiya N Sawda

    Hi maybe you traveled recently to a new place? I traveled about a month ago and I caught an allergic reaction that has become worse after my return to Kenya from Zambia. My skin swells with red ,itchy patches all over my body that make the skin pores enlarged.I have tried to isolate the trigger without success.Anyone with tips on this?

    Thanks.

  • m.

    Could it be fabric softener on your pillow case?

  • http://www.gourmetfury.com/ Melody Fury

    I stopped using dryer sheets and fabric softener. The breakouts have been less frequent. Thanks so much for writing!

  • AMRunner

    I have the exact same reactions in my lips, cheek, and eyes. It was happening to me on a monthly basis. I went to an allergist who ran a series of blood tests and found nothing. The doctor mentioned that angioedema is often caused by an allergy to ibuprofen. I have not taken ibuprofen in 4 months, and I have not had any more facial swelling incidents. I know for sure I took ibuprofen one of the times I had severe eye swelling. It’s worth knowing…

  • DH

    I’m trying to figure out mine as well… I think it’s MSG.

  • http://www.gourmetfury.com/ Melody Fury

    Yeah that’s tough. I know it’s not msg for me.

    ——– Original message ——–

  • Margot

    I was told by two doctors that its hormonal. It always starts with a tingling.

  • Gi

    Hi, my husband is having an allergy reaction right now and it has been like this for around 10 years. His main trigger is aspartame… if he touches it a hives develops…

  • Michael A. Albert

    I know this is an older site posting, but just last week, this started happening to me. First on my left eye, identical to your posted picture, and then the right side of my face and lips. Over the period of time of a week, it went away after I took a Benadryl tablet. I had one good day and then this morning I woke up and was doing fine and then the left side of my upper and part of my lower lip began to swell again. Since this posting, have you found out what caused this to you?

  • http://www.gourmetfury.com/ Melody Fury

    Hi Michael,

    Not yet. The allergist couldn’t find anything and Benadryl doesn’t seem to help. I’m logging what I eat to see if I can find a pattern.
    All the best and I hope it gets sorted on your end!

    Yours truly, Melody

  • Jeremy

    I had exaclty the same!!! It would happen within a day of my arriving in the Philipppines, so I thought it was perhaps caused by some kinf of fish I eat there or perhaps the water. Well one day I suddenly discovered what it was!! Mango!! I was brought a couple of mangoes by a Filipino frined of mine, who brought the my my house in California and we ate them for dessert. Next morning – big swollen right eyelid and water bag under right eye!! (I sleep on my right side always).
    Yes, go google ‘mango allergy’ and you’ll see that the skin of a mango is the same as poison oak and poison ivy!! It is just as powerful. It’s because it contains urushiol oil, which is the oil that poison oak has, that causes all the problems. Here;s another for you – Magnolia!! Yep! the magnolia tree is basically the same nas poison oak too, so if youhandle its branches, twigs or even leaves, you’re gonna swell up!!

    Those are the problems you have now – swollen lips and eyelids.

    Well, just today I got the same symptoms again!! and have not had mango for 3 years!!
    What caused it this time? Blue cheese!!!! I started eating it after many years, yesterday for lunch – had a sandwich with a big thick slice of danish blue inside. Woke this morning with big double bag of fluid under my right eye.

    I am not a delicate type of person – can eat anything and always have….. but not blue cheese or mango.

    So you will find that one of the above is the cuse of you problem, I’m sure.

    All the best.
    Jeremy

  • Melissa

    My dau. has the same reaction but it is just the eyes. but we don’t know what it is from?

  • Stella Yu

    Angioedema comes in different forms. One of which is hereditary Hereditary Angioedema (HAE). Hope this helps. One of things that I found out I am allergic to is birth control. I ended up in the emergency room 3 times. After I stopped taking birth control, I didn’t have an episode for many years.

  • http://www.gourmetfury.com/ Melody Fury

    Thanks for the input, Stella! I’m so glad you found the root of your reactions!

  • Pat

    GMO Foods. Especially anything with CORN. and remember, most Dairy is from GMO Corn-fed Cows, instead of the natural grass-fed like they should be. CORN Ingredients are in Everything! http://www.cornallergens.com/list/corn-allergen-list.php Sometimes, within a 24-hr. period you may be overflowing Your Bucket of Corny products, having ingested too many; other days not so much. They even use corn-ish ingredients to “fluff” the coffee in those 33 ounce cans, for ex., which you will never know about because they don’t have to include it on the label. Every person in every state should be pushing for GMO labeling because it affects everyone, even the unborn.

  • will from OZ

    It is possibly an anaphylactic reaction to artificial MSG. I am fine with real MSG but if I have something with artificial MSG I look just like you in these photos

  • evonne

    This is old and other people have already mentioned this, but MANGO. I have eczema but that mostly affects my hands and joints. However, I have woken up with puffy eyelids just like yours and it was typically after eating mango (including drinks made from syrup) and/or OYSTERS. My eyelids would get itchy and puff up a few hours after eating fried oysters as well. I hope you’ve figured out what it was for you in the last 2 years.

  • Wayne

    My Wife has Hereditary Angioedema and it affects one or other of her eyes. It starts like a small mosquito bite and then swells just like the photo of yours. I am at the moment googling angeoedima again as our baby son has swelling of the lips. In our sons case its looking like peanuts. However my wife certainly HAE as one of her sisters sometimes gets exactly the same thing. Also notice that Paracetamol and other NSAID’s can sometimes trigger an episode as well as stress. Have a look at a few of the HAE sites. It seems to vary a lot from person to person but the point is she is actually not really allergic to anything

  • Alicia

    This is quite a late post to this string.. but I was wondering if this still happens to your? I actually get the swelling on my eye or mouth every other week. I live on allergy meds to prevent them though. I think that it is from too much red wine, spicy food or ph imbalance. I have gotten much testing myself to no avail. Cheers!